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Phoenix Forward magazine

5 ways working in the cloud is changing business

Working in the cloud

Working "in the cloud” is making old-school desktop computers, disc drives and bulky servers a thing of the past.

“In cloud computing, the data storage is spread across dozens, hundreds or thousands of servers [on] the Internet,” instead of one local server, explains Kevin Igo, an IT manager and online instructor in the Master of Information Systems program at University of Phoenix.

Here are five ways the cloud is changing business:

It’s increasingly common.

Chances are you’re already doing cloud computing without realizing it. “Think of Google Apps™ [service],” Igo notes. “You can store documents and images, as well as [use] email and calendaring — it’s all hosted by Google.” Google offers a free basic apps package to all Gmail™ users, and paid subscriptions like the Google Apps for Business™ program add features and memory.

Other common cloud computing services include Dropbox™ storage, which provides free and subscription-based memory options, and the free Microsoft SkyDrive® app. The Carbonite® backup system requires an annual fee. These programs make it inexpensive and convenient for individuals and companies to share and store files without having to manage servers.

Local servers are disappearing.

That big room full of servers and wires at your office might soon be a thing of the past, says Igo, who set up a cloud-based IT system for a health care company.

“We use Google Apps for Business for all email, calendaring, file management and the company intranet,” he explains. “The local office is powered by Cisco® firewalls and switches that are managed via the cloud.”

Small businesses abound.

Without costly in-house servers, equipment and staff to run them, online business startups can flourish, Igo says. “Having cloud operations in place removes quite a bit of the day-to-day, hands-on IT work,” he notes. “I see cloud services enabling many startup operations to set up shop quickly and easily.”


Security is tougher.

One big potential drawback is the increased difficulty of keeping information safe.

“Security and privacy are still evolving issues with cloud-based services,” Igo says, noting that health care companies and other industries that handle sensitive information must ensure they comply with federal privacy regulations before doing cloud computing. “You must weigh the value and privacy of your data,” he says, “against the prospect it is spread across three servers in two countries.”

New jobs are emerging.

Local network administrators might worry that cloud computing will make their jobs obsolete, but Igo emphasizes that’s not necessarily the case. “The jobs may just be moving to other companies,” he notes, which likely will create career opportunities.

Cloud computing involves more than just file storage, he says. “The Amazon EC2® — Elastic Compute Cloud — service hosts many services, [including] databases, application servers, content management and business intelligence for huge clients, such as Instagram,” he adds.

These services will need experts to support them. “The IT shop that once managed a server or two,” Igo says, “might be repurposed to manage the cloud services and … aligning IT services with the business.”


Related articles:

Google Apps, Gmail and Google Apps for Business are trademarks of Google Inc.
Dropbox is a trademark of Dropbox Inc.
SkyDrive is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corp. in the U.S. and/or other countries.
Carbonite is a registered trademark of Carbonite Inc.
Cisco is a registered trademark of Cisco Systems Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and certain other countries.
Amazon EC2 is a registered trademark of Amazon Technologies Inc.